In light of the recent flip of Justin Scott and the subsequent gnashing of teeth and screaming of "Just pay the kid!" I wanted to take a stab at explaining why that is an unreasonable take. I want to preface this with a statement that I have no idea what OSU's NIL strategy actually is, nor do I 100% know what other schools are doing, but from everything that has been said about NIL over the past several years, there appears to be two distinctly different NIL strategies in play for different schools across the nation:
1) Spread the wealth - recruit a class that still strikes on quality, but focuses more on the quantity of quality recruits, rather than spending big on just a handful of big play-makers.
2) Spend for the top end - recruit a class of mostly mid and sub-mid players, but be willing to go above-and-beyond for the top 3-6 players in your class and substantially out-spend your competitors.
While thinking about these two strategies, it is important to realize that no school, Ohio State included, is just sitting on an endless supply of Scrooge McDuck money. And schools are not allowed to take school funds and direct them to prospective athletes (so the size of an athletic budget DOES NOT MATTER). Any money that is being funneled to recruits is coming from boosters and collectives. It may come out eventually that some schools are playing fast and loose with that rule, but let's assume for a moment that this rule is actually being followed, or at least being followed by Ohio State in particular.
A common point of consternation amongst our fans right now seems to be coming from two facts: We have the largest fan/alumni base in the nation, and a statement was made in the spring about how OSU was not going to be out-NIL'd by anyone this year, and yet, we keep seeing things like yesterday happen. So why? Are we being lied to? I don't particularly think so, and here's why:
Yes, OSU has a huge alumni base with multiple wealthy donors and, as such, we have a correspondingly large NIL fund - perhaps one of the largest in the country - hence the statement about how we wouldn't be out-NIL'd this year. But, in hindsight, I believe that statement should be revised to read that we won't be out-NIL'd by anyone within reason. The primary reason for this is due to our approach, which appears to fall firmly under strategy 1 - spread the wealth.
Let's hypothetically say that Ohio State has an NIL fund of $7 million and the football staff has to plan on budgeting that amount for approx 25 recruits each year. Our staff also seems to want to take a quantity over pure quality approach, as shown by the fact that we routinely are in the top three schools in the number of blue-chip recruits we bring in. So using this year as an example, our staff needs to plan on dividing those funds between 3-6 five-star players, a dozen or so additional four-star recruits, and a handful of three-star developmental players. That might break down to approx $400-$500k for each five-star, $200-$300k for each four-star, and <$100k for your three-star guys. Those are really good paydays (and why we may have been Dylan Stewart's top offer, as well as Justin Scott's top offer at the time)! But with 5 five-stars (and a budget for Seaton), 14 four-stars, and 4 three-stars, that $7 mil budget goes fast! Sure, you can save some money here or there on an Ohio recruit who loves the idea of playing for OSU, but you may also have to overpay to steal a fast-rising guy like Leroy Roker from Iowa, a Carlon Jones from Nebraska, or a Lincoln Keinholz from Washington.
On the flip-side, let's imagine that Miami has an NIL budget of $5 mil, but falls firmly under recruiting strategy #2. Miami has a smaller budget, but for their 27 recruits, 16 of them are of the three-star variety and would be a bottom-four player in our 24-man class. Let's assume Miami is giving these guys pennies (<$50k). If Miami pays market value for 6 of their 11 blue-chippers ($200-300K), they can afford to go absolutely bananas for their top 5. So when Miami decides to pay Marquise Lightfoot five-star+ money, or $800-$900k for Justin Scott, it's not necessarily possible for Ohio State to just match. Those funds have already been accounted for. So unless they can go back to a booster and say "Hey, we need another $300-$400k to match this offer for Scott. Oh, and then we also need a $200-$300k raise for our other five-stars as well, so they don't feel jealous." It just isn't reasonable to "match".
This is the same for other schools as well. Oregon has a single five-star in their class in addition to the fact that they aren't exactly poor on the NIL front, so they can afford to pay him, as well as several of their top four-star recruits, above market value. The same thing can be said for Auburn and Tennessee. These are teams with fewer blue-chip recruits (sometimes substantially fewer). Auburn has exactly 6 recruits rated higher than a 90 on 247. That's half as many as us, and a third as many as Georgia. So if they want to pay like crazy for their top end, they 1) can afford to do that, even with a smaller overall budget, and 2) they can use that to steal players from the Ohio State's, Georgia's, and Alabama's of the world who are spread much thinner.
While I agree with many posters, that Ohio State should be willing, at times, to bend on their budget for certain must-get players at premium positions (Seaton, Smith, top-flight DE's and QB's), I just don't think it is realistic to do this all the time or for every player who might end up getting poached from us. (But feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments!)